Wednesday, June 11, 2014

ACT's The Price makes good sense to see

Charles Leggett and Peter Silbert and Peter Lohnes in The Price
Photo: Chris Bennion 

The Price
by Arthur Miller
directed by Victor Pappas
starring Anne Allgood, Charles Leggett, Peter Lohnes, Peter Silbert
ACT Theatre
through June 22

Arthur Miller's play The Price is now on ACT Theatre's main stage with four top-notch actors. The play is now a period piece dated 1967, but with a timeless theme: family relationships.

Victor Franz (Charles Leggett), a New York cop, is finally forced to sell the family furniture due to imminent destruction of the building by new owners. A lifetime of "stuff" has been sitting untouched in the sixteen years of Victor's father's passing. He has invited a furniture appraiser (Peter Silbert) to give him a price. Victor wants it all gone and does not wish to sell off only the good pieces to Solomon.

Victor's other dilemma, as he discusses it with his wife Esther (Anne Allgood), is whether to split to proceeds with his unavailable brother, Walter (Peter Lohnes). Walter has refused to answer any phone calls or messages and Esther, who is more concerned about money than Victor is, thinks Victor should just keep all the money he gets for the furniture. Walter is a successful and prosperous doctor and doesn't need it.

Solomon, played with gusto and a perfectly-pitched old-man Jewish accent by Silbert, keeps telling Victor that emotions must not get in the way in these transactions. He is preparing Victor for a much lower price than Victor might think all this heavy, well-crafted furniture should deserve.

The first act ends with the surprise appearance by the neglectful Walter. We don't know if we're going to witness fireworks or reconciliation in the second act. We get a mix of both, in a somewhat long-winded but riveting interaction that fills out both sides of the story.

Technical aspects include a gorgeously appointed set by Robert Dahlstrom of antique-looking furniture in an arrangement that never interferes with acting but suggests the years of belongings, spot-on costuming by Rose Pederson, muted lighting by Alex Berry, and the usual magnificent sound contributions by Brendan Patrick Hogan.

One of the intriguing aspects of the play is how Walter portrays himself: he contends that he recently was made to take a close look at his life and determine that he has made mistakes and should reform. We never know if we should believe him, nor does Victor believe him. Family tensions are raised because Esther seems to believe Walter, but her reasons for doing so are that he offers a possibility of a more financially lucrative life.

The title can refer to the price of the furniture, the price of our choices in life, the price of our relationships, in many aspects. The play demands a certain attention, and if you don't give it or you don't care enough about these characters, you may well disengage and nod out. But if you don't, the taut direction of Victor Pappas emphasizes all the different interpretations of "cost" that the play has to offer. In fact, there is some deep truth-telling going on. If you are patient, there is much you can glean from this play.

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